Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A good reason to talk with your mouth full

My first blog was a political one. Since I wrote my first lines for that blog (it was a Xenga I believe) years ago, my politics and my interests have changed.

One of the things that drove me to food was its relative frivolity. For all of the "importance" of local and national trends, of what hot new restaurant was living up to its rep, or of what fast food dish was going to make the "Fatty Fridays" column, it usually couldn't hold a candle to the real life significance of actual policy issues.

Well today food isn't just about assigning a number of stars based on a restaurant's worth. We are on the verge of a global food crisis the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime.

Yes, we have seen isolated instances of starvation. We have seen it in Haiti before. We have seen it in Africa before. But we've never seen it in Japan, and we've certainly never seen it in this country.

Now I'm not saying that the East Coast is going to look like East Africa any time soon. I'm not saying that we're going to run out of food. What I am saying is we're about to see a fundamental way in the way that we look at what we eat.

The price of rice is up over 120 percent in the past year, wheat is up over almost 100 percent, and other commodities from coffee to corn are up by significant amounts.

Food that we once took for granted as cheap and easily attainable is going to be significantly less so, and these changes will force us to make a choice.

We can lower our standards, find cheaper food through any means necessary, and continue to consume the way we have in the past. Or we can change our ways. We can work towards eating local, and reestablish the balance in what we eat, how we eat, and how we produce and acquire our food.

This is an issue that will undoubtedly become political, and will undoubtedly spark further debate. I just hope that those who have this debate with their mouths full will remember that there are many with nothing but an empty plate in front of them, and unless this issue is addressed soon on a global level those empty plates are going to lead to a significant problem.

1 comment:

Betty Bleu said...

Your post also made me think about the obesity epidemic in the US, UK and Australia. Being overweight was once a sign of wealth, and therefore, beauty - leading to gluttonous habits in established countries.

Eating "green" and "local" may be one way to decrease obesity rates, while reducing import costs and encouraging local entrepreneur-ism.

It's amazing what we take for granted.